Like most parents, I sometimes think kids are born negotiators. Once they set their mind on a goal, they will come at you from different angles over and over again. Result? You either end up being exasperated and angrily telling them that it won’t happen. Or you give in. Sometimes because they’ve made a good argument. Often, because they have worn you down.
But here’s something to consider the next time you’re faced with incessant requests for something. Learning to negotiate is a key money skill. One which could have significant impact in later life. Helping kids hone their negotiation skills could have huge financial impact once they enter the workforce.
I freely admit that, with two boys, I have a boy-centric view of life. But as the proud Aunt of two gorgeous girls and proud Godmother of one young woman, a story on NPR interviewing Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University caught my attention last night.
In between simultaneously cooking dinner, helping T with spelling homework and supervising M in the bath, this statement came zinging through the chaos:
“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime,”
And guess what? Women are less likely to ask for more money or a promotion. Even worse, there’s a prejudice against women who ask for a raise exactly the same way as men.
Babcock showed people videos of men and women asking for a raise, following the exact same script. People liked the man’s style and said, ‘Yes, pay him more.’ But the woman?
“People found that to be way too aggressive,” Babcock says. “She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman’s career.”
To be clear, both men and women thought this way.
I have a feeling that one of the reasons kids are master negotiators is that they know us. They spend years experimenting with what works. They learn where we are weak and vulnerable. “Hmm, last time I asked for ice cream twenty times in a row, she gave in. Let’s try that again. If I just keep asking often enough, I’ll get the answer I want.”
Repetition and wearing people down is not going to help them later in life. But I’m guessing that there are ways we can change these interactions into teachable moments.
For example, I remember one boss telling me years ago that when his kids wanted something really big, he asked them to give him a presentation on why they should have it. His kids were about 11 – 13 years old at the time.
For younger children, maybe our response should be “Give me three reasons why this would be a good thing.” (Note: only do this when it’s something you’re prepared to approve.)
Or try practicing the art of give and take. You hurry up with a shower so you have more time for a bedtime story. Exchange ten more minutes at the playground in return for helping fix dinner as we’ll have less time when we get home.
Another option for girls is to check out the Win Win patch for Girl Scouts. You don’t have to be a Girl Scout to participate and learn from the program. I couldn’t find anything similar for Boy Scouts, unfortunately. UPDATE: The Boy Scouts Twitter team let me know that you’ll find elements of negotiation skills in the American Business, Communication and Salesmanship Merit Badges.
What kind of negotiators are your kids? Any good tips for helping them become good negotiators?